It is hot! Over 102 F today, 110 by Wednesday and no air conditioning yet in our building. They say they will turn it on when it gets hotter in July. So we shall see. One comfort is that there are many others who are dealing with the same in this city. It also gives opportunity to think on life in the city.
Our Sunday Night Bible Study group is meeting for the last time tonight. We are celebrating with a BBQ…Lebanese style we are told. Living in a multicultural city has many advantages.
Our group has been going through a study called “Gospel Christianity.” We have been looking at what the “gospel” is and why it is a unique term and concept to Christianity. Tonight we are finishing with “How to live out the gospel in the city.”
It is fascinating to consider that Christianity was born in the cities of the Roman Empire and by 300 AD over 50% of the Roman cities were Christian. Amazing, considering the vast cultures, languages and religions that made up the Empire!
Below are some thoughts from our last study. I enjoyed them in light of our experiences here in this city…Nicosia… the concept of the great city can often be seen here, sometimes even in the old ruins. There are some pictures of Nicosia included. Tell us what you think.
The Original City – Creation- God began history in a garden (Gen 2) but he will end it in a city (Rev 21-22). When Jesus is finished redeeming the world, it will be urban, a place of diversity, density and creativity. God through Christ is building a city (Heb 11:10). The idea of the city is therefore God’s invention. So originally —
• Cities were to be places of refuge and safety. The city wall made life secure within (Psalms 25:28; Nehemiah 1:3-4). Cities were the best places for women and children, minorities, immigrants, and others with less power in a society.
• Cities were to be places of justice. The city gate was the place where trials were conducted. Outside it was “every man for himself,” where conflicts were resolved with sheer power (Numbers 35:9-24; Proverbs 22:22).
• Cities were to be places where culture was forged. The city market square was where the most numerous and diverse commercial, social, political and cultural connections could be made. From these interactions, new cultural movements were forged and flowed out to the rest of society.
• Cities were designed to be places of faith. The city’s highest tower (castle, minaret, cathedral or office skyscraper) indicated the city’s faith — what most of the people are working for and looking to for their significance.
The Broken City – Fall –Today, the city is still the place of refuge for minorities, still the place where laws are made and enforced, still the main place culture is forged and disseminated, and still a place of great spiritual seeking and finding. But sin has broken cities so that none of the original purposes are being properly realized.
• The Bible denounces the cities as places of violence, injustice and unbelief (Micah 3:9-11).
• While the city still produces culture, it does so in a way that glorifies human beings or things rather than God.
• Should we abandon cities? No. The family and the church are also deeply marred and twisted by sin, but we don’t discard them. We seek to rehabilitate them by the grace of God.
Some common complaints about the modern city…
“The country is a wholesome influence on people; the city is morally corrupting.”
Western society in general has developed a powerfully negative view of cities.
• They are seen as sources of corruption and evil, while rural settings are considered to be places of natural goodness.
• But it was from Rousseau and humanists that the influential concept of the “noble savage” arose — that people are good in their natural and pristine state, and only society “defiles” us and turns us bad.
• In reality, cities are the places where we see the very best and the very worst of what the human race can produce. The city is a magnifying glass that brings out whatever is in the human heart.
“The country inspires faith and belief; spiritual faith dies in the city.
In fact, the city is a spiritual hotbed.
• New immigrants from other countries are far more open and accessible to the gospel than they were in their homelands.
• Younger people who flood the cities are also less set in their ways than older adults.
• The early Christian church largely was an urban movement because then, like today, the city affords more advantages to discussing spiritual issues than in non-urban areas, where people are not as open to new ideas, nor are there as many forums for getting the word out.
God in our time is moving climactically through a variety of social, political, and economic factors to bring earth’s people into closer contact with one another, into greater interaction and interdependence, and into earshot of the gospel. Through worldwide migration to the city, God may be setting the stage for Christianity’s greatest hour… now that a majority of the world’s populations live in cities… To ignore the plight of the urban masses or refuse to grapple with the trials and complexities of city life is worse than merely a strategic error. It is unconscionable disobedience to God, who directs the movements of people and creates the Church’s opportunity. [Acts 17:27-28: “He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him…”]– Roger Greenway